Review: Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.

Regardless how you feel about DC Comics’ relaunch, it must be conceded that they are attempting to expand their scope. While their Vertigo imprint has always pushed the boundaries with comics like V for Vendetta and Transmetropolitan, DC Comics proper usually stuck to the mainstream. With this relaunch we’re seeing a lot of comics coming out that are being referred to as “DC Dark.” Animal Man and Swamp Thing have made their way to DC and soon even Vertigo mainstay John Constantine will be joining the magic version of The Justice League in Justice League Dark. While stuff like this might not matter to some readers, I must say I am smitten. So when I saw that Jeff Lemire (Animal Man) was writing this quirky book, I knew that I just had to buy Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.

That being said, I wasn’t let down. Having no real experience with the Frankenstein of the DC Comics, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Readers are thrown right into the deep end. You’re bombarded by talk of giant city-like head quarters that fits in a 3 inch globe, engineered workers that have the life span of fruit flies, and a rather intelligent Frankenstein’s Monster in the middle of it all. While all this could be overwhelming, I never felt like I was missing out on a story from any previous Frankenstein related title.

It’s hard to talk about a book like this without feeling like you’re giving all the good parts away, so I will try to paint this in broad strokes. The story kicks off with a sleepy little Pacific Northwestern town that is suffering from a nasty case of monsters. After initial attempts to quell the outbreak fail, S.H.A.D.E.(The Super Human Advanced Defense Executive) deploys Frankenstein with six hours to get the messed cleaned up before they drop a nuke on the entire town, including Frankenstein’s wife. Luckily for Frankenstein, he doesn’t have to go it alone and is teamed up with a group of unique soldiers called The Creature Commandos. Like the name would imply, this field team is made up of a bunch of “monsters” that would be right at home at the Universal Movie Monster Show.

Jeff Lemire does a great job creating a fun world that really has the feeling of an ’80s British Invasion comic. It’s unusual, dark, slightly cheeky and most of all interesting. In the short time we have in this first issue, each character has a unique voice and a clear personality. I look forward to learning more about every single one of these characters in the issues to come.

The artwork is just amazing. Alberto Ponticelli is clearly some sort of mad genius. Each panel is just filled with such unique design and action. There is a two page splash towards the end of the comic that is just an orgy of monsters and violence, and it’s just beautiful. His unique style is a perfect fit for this equally unique book.

Maybe the most important thing that will clearly be overlooked is the coloring. Jose Villarrubia does a great job coloring the book. His muted tones are timeless and aren’t as flashy as most modern books. If I squint my eyes, I can almost see the ink dots long lost to the comics of today. I’m not sure if he used modern digital means to color this book, but I think there are many colorist who could learn a thing or two from Mr. Villarrubia.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the lettering of Pat Brosseau. I’m not sure if it was his choice to make all of Frankenstein’s dialog unique in font and color, but it does a great job of enriching the character. I can almost hear him speaking in this long, drawn out epic tone.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. won’t be for everyone. It really reeks of creators like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and even a little Warren Ellis, though I think it would be hard to argue that is a negative thing. It’s not a capes and cowl adventure for all ages, but rather a more refined flavor that is perfect for cleansing the comic palate. If you dig comics like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Hellboy, this comic might be perfect for you. It’s definitely in my top five favorite titles to come out of the DC Relaunch so far.

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